“Tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen, pour myself a cup of ambition, and yawn and stretch and try to come to life”. Said a very wise woman, Dolly Parton. She also observed, in the same iconic work in 1980 “what a way to make a livin’, barely gettin’ by, it’s all takin’ and no givin’”. That was Dolly’s commentary on the 9 to 5 life. Bound to office hours and faced with the challenges and tribulations of workplace politics and the pressures of a demanding boss whose modus operandum was born of the dark ages of sexism, misbehaviour and dysfunction.
Cut to 2020 and workplace misbehaviour remains a hot topic in new and different ways. Stories, allegations and court cases around sexual misconduct in the TV and movie industries have generated the #metoo movement and a lively public debate. We are concerned with what acceptable behaviour was in the past and what suitable behaviour is now and for future generations.
This month I have been particularly fascinated by incidents on the Six Nations rugby field and a high-profile political storm. Both professional arenas and highly paid roles. And how disappointing they appear to think themselves above the law or culturally different to such a degree unique rules apply. Such examples test our values and the law at every turn. At the core of the problem though is professional or rather unprofessional behaviours.
I saw a professional rugby player punching a rival deliberately in the face, and another squeezing an opposing player’s genitals as part of tactical play. Shocking stuff. What’s more it promoted media commentators to decry or applaud them. Clearly some parts of the media have learned nothing from the #metoo campaign.
Assault is assault and sexual assault is sexual assault – wherever and whenever it happens. Bad behaviour is just that and must never be justified by defences based upon what used to happen, culture, custom or practice. It surely cannot be acceptable for us and our children to witness on broadcast television. And how can it be acceptable from professional people in their place of work, whether it be a field of play or an open plan office. Or indeed a political or a civil service office. There have been accusations about bullying, demanding and unreasonable leadership at the top of government. And the defence from their colleagues has rested on how impressed we should be if someone works day and night on their job, beyond 9 to 5, adding an extra 5 to 9 shift. This does not impress me, all it does is worry me greatly and I wonder what on earth is happening at home or in their lives then, now and next. And I really do not subscribe to the idea of somehow finding fault in anyone around who doesn’t match up to such unreasonable and unbalanced choices and behaviours.
We expect a great deal from our leaders political and sporting, and two of those things are role modelling and safety. We hope that leaders will show us the way to work professionally and respectfully in ways that support wellbeing, balance and health and safety. The consequences are real if this does not happen. We all must learn from past experiences and commit to breaking bad behaviour patterns and valuing professionalism at all time and in all places.